Pro Audio: Top Mono Synths

Author : Mark Grossane
April 28, 2023

Pro Audio: Top Mono Synths

A monophonic synthesizer is a type of synthesizer that can produce only one note at a time. This means that when you press a key, the synth can only play one sound or pitch, unlike a polyphonic synth which can play multiple notes simultaneously.

In this article, we’ll explore the top mono synthesizers on the market today, examining their unique features, sound characteristics, and overall value. Whether you’re a seasoned synth enthusiast or just starting out, this guide will provide you with everything you need to know about the top mono synths available.

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Monophonic synths can be useful for creating basslines, leads, and other types of monophonic melodies or sounds, and they are often used in electronic music production, (whether house, techno, or experimental) film and video game scoring, and sound design.While some people may view monophonic synths as limited because they can only play one note at a time, others appreciate them for their simplicity and the unique sound. Additionally, many monophonic synths have creative features that allow for a wide range of sonic exploration and experimentation.

When considering a new mono synth there are a few key characteristics to consider. These Include:

Oscillators: Monophonic synths typically have one or two oscillators, which are responsible for creating the basic sound waveforms. Look for synths with a wide range of oscillator waveforms, including square, sawtooth, and triangle.

Filter: The filter is responsible for shaping the sound by removing certain frequencies. Look for synths with a variety of filter types, such as low-pass, high-pass, and band-pass filters.

Envelope generators: Envelope generators control the shape and duration of each note played on the synth. Look for synths with multiple envelope generators, as these will give you more control over the sound.

Modulation: Modulation allows you to add movement and texture to your sound. Look for synths with a variety of modulation options, such as LFOs, modulation envelopes, and sample-and-hold.

Connectivity: Look for synths with a variety of connectivity options, such as MIDI, USB, and CV/Gate. This will allow you to connect your synth to other gear, such as a sequencer or computer.

Size and portability: Consider the size and portability of the synth, especially if you plan to take it on the road or use it in a live setting. Look for synths that are compact and easy to transport.

These components will allow you to create a wide range of unique and expressive sounds so having a solid foundation of knowledge of the synths and your intended use will help you make a good pick.

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There are many monophonic synthesizers that are highly regarded by musicians and sound designers. Here are a few of the top monophonic synths:

Minimoog Model D

The Minimoog is one of the most iconic synthesizers of all time, known for its fat and warm analog sound. It has been used on countless classic recordings in a variety of genres.

Watch Now: Moog Minimoog Model D Demo – Daniel Fisher


The Moog Minimoog Model D is an iconic analog synthesizer that has left an indelible mark on the music industry. One of its key features is analog sound generation, which gives it a warm, rich character that is difficult to replicate with digital technology. The Model D has three voltage-controlled oscillators (VCOs) that can generate a range of waveforms, including sawtooth, triangle, and square waves. These can be used individually or blended together to create complex sounds.

The 24 dB/octave voltage-controlled filter (VCF) is one of the Minimoog’s most distinctive features, allowing you to shape the sound by attenuating or boosting certain frequencies, creating a wide range of tonal possibilities. The voltage-controlled amplifier (VCA) allows you to control the volume of the sound by applying an envelope to it. The Model D also includes a range of modulation options, such as an LFO (low-frequency oscillator) for creating vibrato and other effects, and a sample-and-hold circuit for creating random variations in the sound.

Its semi-modular design means that you can use patch cables to reroute its internal signal flow, allowing for even greater flexibility and experimentation. Finally, the Minimoog’s classic design has been imitated by many other synthesizers over the years, thanks to its compact size, wood-paneling, and distinctive knobs and switches that have made it an object of desire for many musicians and collectors.

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Roland SH-101

The SH-101 is a classic monophonic synth from the 1980s that has a distinctive sound and a simple but versatile interface. It has been used by many artists in the techno, acid, and electro genres.  Its analog circuitry provides a warm and rich character that is highly sought after by musicians and producers.

Watch Now: World’s Greatest Mono Synth: Roland SH-101

It has a single oscillator that can generate sawtooth, square, and pulse waveforms, as well as a sub-oscillator for thickening up the sound. Its 24 dB/octave low-pass filter allows for shaping of the sound by attenuating or boosting certain frequencies, creating a wide range of tonal possibilities.

The SH-101 also has an envelope generator with separate controls for attack, decay, sustain, and release parameters, as well as a built-in LFO that can be synced to the internal clock or set to free-running mode for creating vibrato, tremolo, and other modulation effects.

Additionally, the synth includes a portamento function for creating smooth glides and pitch bends and a simple arpeggiator for creating repeating patterns of notes. Its compact and portable design makes it easy to transport and use on stage or in the studio.

Though an original is on the expensive side Roland has also released a boutique version that replicates the original layout and sound for a fraction of the price.

Korg MS-20

The MS-20 is another classic monophonic synth from the 1970s that has been used on many classic recordings. It has a unique filter that can create a wide range of tones, from aggressive and gritty to smooth and mellow.

Watch Now: KORG MS-20, complete in depth guide tutorial. Including patch bay

It includes two VCOs that can generate a range of waveforms, as well as white and pink noise generators.

The high-pass and low-pass filters offer further sound shaping and modulation, with the option to configure them in series or parallel. The VCA has an adjustable envelope generator for volume control over time. The patch bay allows for rerouting of the internal signal flow, and the external signal processor can be used for processing external sounds.

The original MS-20 was a pretty large unit requiring a large amount of desk space. Recently within the last few years a mini version has been released. The scaled down version has the same circuitry and capabilities, as well as upgraded connectivity, and a more affordable price point.

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 Moog Subsequent 37

The Subsequent 37 is a modern version of the classic Moog sound, with a powerful analog sound engine and a wide range of features. It has been used by many modern electronic musicians and sound designers.

Watch Now: Moog Subsequent 37 Sounds

The Moog Subsequent 37 is a powerful and versatile synthesizer that offers a wide range of features for sound creation and modulation. It features a duophonic architecture with two oscillators that can generate a range of waveforms, including sawtooth, triangle, and square waves, and a sub-oscillator for added depth and richness.

The 20 Hz to 20 kHz Moog ladder filter offers a wide range of tonal possibilities with both high-pass and low-pass filtering options, and can be modulated in a variety of ways. The Subsequent 37 also features a powerful arpeggiator and sequencer for creating repeating patterns and sequences of notes.

The modulation options on the Subsequent 37 are extensive, including two LFOs, a sample-and-hold circuit, and an extensive patch bay for routing and modulation. The VCA has a powerful envelope generator with loopable and syncable options, providing control over the volume of the sound over time.

Arturia MiniBrute 2

The MiniBrute 2 is a modern monophonic synth that combines classic analog sound with modern features and connectivity. It has a powerful sound engine and a modular patchbay that allows for a wide range of creative possibilities.

Watch Now: Sonic LAB: Arturia MiniBrute 2 Semi Modular Synth

The MiniBrute 2 includes two voltage-controlled oscillators (VCOs) that can produce a range of waveforms, including sine, triangle, sawtooth, and square waves. It also features a sub-oscillator and noise generator for added sonic possibilities.

The synth has a multimode filter that includes low-pass, high-pass, band-pass, and notch filtering options, which can be modulated using an envelope generator, LFO, or the modulation matrix. The MiniBrute 2 includes an ADSR envelope generator and an LFO for modulating various parameters such as pitch, filter, and amplitude. It also has a sequencer and arpeggiator for creating patterns and sequences.

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The world of monophonic synthesizers is vast and full of possibilities. From classic designs like the Minimoog Model D to newer models like the Arturia MiniBrute 2, each synthesizer offers its own unique sound and features.

Whether you’re a seasoned synth enthusiast or a newcomer to the world of synthesis, there is a monophonic synthesizer out there that will suit your needs and inspire your creativity. As technology advances and new models are released, it’s exciting to imagine what the future holds for this beloved instrument.

Be sure to also try out plugins and modules to see what works with your set up. Once you understand the overall goal and role your mono synth is trying to play you can better choose an instrument that will suit your needs.